Canadians Clamouring for Cheese

The term “black market” calls to mind “the” illicit, difficult to procure and illegal. It might surprise you to learn of an underground audience for one of Canada’s favourite foods – cheese! Cheese has long been targeted by shoplifters for personal or resale use, and lately, that theft has scaled.

Thieves wanting a bit more “cheddar” recently concocted an elaborate scam on one of Canada’s leading cheese companies. The carefully orchestrated theft took place on the morning of August 9th, 2019, when an individual arrived at the Saputo Dairy Products facility in Tavistock, Ontario and presented fraudulent shipping paperwork. Over $187,000 worth of Canadian cheese was loaded onto a transport truck believed to be headed to New Brunswick. The goods never arrived. Investigators encouraged business owners to be vigilant and report any instances of back-alley cheese dealing.

Cheese is big business in Canada — trends show an increase in cheese production: 509.92 kg in 2018 up from 497.28 in 2017, and consumption– from 13.87 kg in 2017 to 14.65 kg in 2018. Retail sales continue to see positive trends in this industry.

In 2017, two companies were responsible for over 45% of the Candian Cheese market — Montreal’s Saputo Inc and the American-based Kraft Heinz Company. However, in 2018 Canadian-based Parmalat successfully negotiated a deal to secure Kraft’s Canadian natural cheese business. In doing so, Parmalat is able to both secure jobs and farm revenue — adding 400 employees to their current payroll of 3,000 and taking ownership of a production facility located in Ingleside, Ontario. This sale increases the market share of Canadian-based cheese producers operating domestically and helps to ensure that Canadian Dairy producers continue to supply milk for this production.

The major question is what impact the United States Mexico Canada Agreement will have on Canada’s cheese industry. In 2018, Canada exported 9.45 million kgs of cheese with an estimated export value of $64 million CAD. However impressive this statistic, the industry currently operates at a massive trade deficit with 31.5 million kgs being imported primarily from Italy, France and the United States. This is despite imposed tariffs on imported cheeses under Canada’s supply management system.

Whether imported, exported, shoplifted or purchased illicitly it is clear that the demand for cheese is substantial. This suggests that there are opportunities to further increase the marketing and exporting of Canadian-produced cheese.

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